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City Council races start to take shape

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that retired firefighter Ronnie Martinez has dropped out of the race for the District 5 Council seat and Cynthia Borrego has entered the race for that same seat.

Five of Albuquerque’s nine City Council seats will be up for grabs in this year’s municipal election, and 17 hopefuls are already jockeying for a spot on the Oct. 3 ballot.

Seeking re-election are District 1 Councilor Ken Sanchez, District 3 Councilor Klarissa Peña, District 7 Councilor Diane Gibson and District 9 Councilor Don Harris. In District 5, City Councilor Dan Lewis has opted to launch a mayoral run, leaving no incumbent in that race.

And while mayoral candidates have already turned in their nominating petitions, City Council candidates only began collecting signatures this month. In order to qualify for the ballot, each council candidate is required to gather 500 signatures by June 28 from registered voters residing in the district each seeks to represent.

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City races are nonpartisan, meaning that a candidate’s political affiliation won’t appear on the ballot.

District 1

This district covers Albuquerque’s central West Side. Sanchez, a Democrat who operates an accounting firm and is president of Ken Sanchez & Associates Realty, has represented the district since 2005. So far, he has three opponents. They are:

Javier Benavidez, a self-described progressive Democrat, who is co-director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, an organization concerned with social and environmental justice. He previously worked as a policy analyst for the City Council.

Sandra Mills, an independent who grew up in Albuquerque and retired from IBM Corp. Mills volunteers with AARP tax aide and cites her father, Louis Ulibarri, as her biggest influence.

Johnny F. Luevano Jr., an independent who now works for Presbyterian Health Plan. Luevano served in the Marines and retired with the rank of captain.

District 3

Of the 17 candidates running, Peña is the only incumbent who faces no opposition yet. Peña, a Democrat, is wrapping up her first term on the council. District 3 encompasses the southwest mesa and South Valley from Central Avenue south and west of the Rio Grande.

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District 5

The open District 5 seat, which covers the northwest part of Albuquerque, has so far garnered interest from six candidates. They are:

Robert Aragon, a local attorney who was a state representative for six years. He serves on the state Board of Finance and said he has served on transition teams for both Republican and Democratic governors. Aragon said he was a registered Democrat until 2012, when he switched to the Republican Party.

Cynthia Borrego, a retired city planner who currently serves on the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority Board. Borrego, a self-described conservative Democrat, was a planner for the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County for 28 years. She has since opened her own business, Cyba’s & Associates LLC, a land development consulting company.

Jose Orozco, a Republican, owns a consulting company focused on business management and strategic communications.

Catherine Trujillo, who is running as an independent, works with people to help get them back into the workforce. She is vice president of the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association.

Phillip Ramirez is a project manager for a construction company.

Robert Watson did not respond to several messages from the Journal .

Retired Bernalillo County firefighter Ronnie Martinez had initially filed to run for the seat, but he has since pulled out of the race due to family issues.

District 7

This district covers Albuquerque’s mid-heights, including Uptown and parts of the near Northeast Heights. Gibson, a Democrat, is wrapping up her first term on the council. The Detroit native has lived in New Mexico since 1975 and retired from Sandia National Laboratories in 2008. She has two opponents. They are:

Timothy Carlton-McQueen, an independent, graduated from the University of New Mexico in December with a bachelor’s in Spanish and marketing. He has worked at the Roundhouse for Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, as a secretary and analyst, and he is president of the McDuffie Twin Parks Neighborhood Association.

Eric L. Lucero is a registered Republican and retired from the New Mexico Army National Guard in 2012 after 23 years of service. Prior to that, he served in the Air Force. He said he has been deployed five times.

District 9

This district encompasses the far Southeast Heights and foothills. Harris, a Republican, is an attorney and is in his third term on the council. He currently has two opponents. They are:

Paul Ryan McKenney, a Libertarian, was in the Air Force and served one tour in Iraq. He is a stay-at-home dad and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business through Eastern New Mexico University’s online program.

Byron K. Powdrell, a Democrat, is general manager of a home-based low-power radio station he operates under Future Broadcasters Inc., a nonprofit he started to mentor children in the art of radio.

Public Financing

All but four of the council candidates are pursuing public financing. In order to qualify, they will need to collect $5 contributions from 1 percent of the registered voters in their districts, which ranges from 282 to 464 contributions, depending on the district.

Council candidates who meet the threshold will receive $1 for every voter in their district, which ranges from $28,207 for District 3 to $46,382 in District 7.

Orozco, Watson, McKenney and Aragon are not seeking public financing.

“I believe if I want your money to run my campaign, I should ask you for it,” McKenney said. “I shouldn’t use tax dollars to promote my ideas.”

McKenney has collected one $875 contribution and has loaned his campaign $1,000, according to a campaign finance report filed April 15.

Orozco reported receiving $4,625 in campaign contributions and has loaned his campaign $5,000.

Watson reported that he had received no campaign contributions as of March 31.

Aragon filed to run on April 20 and has not yet filed a campaign finance report.

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